I’ve been reminded by Renee’ that today marks a vague (yet real) one year anniversary of my daunting yet eye-opening adventure to the Squaw Valley Writer’s Workshop. A week from now it will mark yet another anniversary, the birth of this podcast and blog, and the death of my ambitions of becoming an author, as many of my loyal unpublishednotdead-ers have become aware of already; this news isn’t news, but rather redundant information. You’ve probably noticed that I didn’t write much about my latest writing class endeavor with the NYC’s Writer’s Workshop, or that I don’t post too many short stories that are new or even noteworthy (of which I plan to discuss in length once distance is upon me). I don’t talk about writing that screenplay that I had wanted to write forever, and I don’t even manage muster up enough aspiration to enter a contest or submit myself to be published. Now, bear with me, I use the word death loosely here, because my writing ambitions have been dead before, in fact they lie comatose for years after college, and until recently I hadn’t done a damn thing with words except for write these amazing Christmas cards annually to my friends who would either not read them or make them the bud of jokes at gatherings, with, of course, the requisite friends who would defend my creativity, although I always suspected they hadn’t read them either. I suppose you can tote these posts to my blog as writing, but if you knew me in a real sense you would know that these stream of consciousness rants are nothing more than aspects of my personality I would rather see blocked and remised, rather than shared with the world. This topic of non-writing, however, has been eluding me for some time now, and it has caused depression, sorrow, anxiety, and even self-doubt and pity. The topic of how this horse of creativity I ride for sanity (which is writing) had been killed so brutally in just one week’s time is worth a couple pages I’d guess. How did this seemingly painless event cause the only thing in my life that was important and real to just disappear? I guess it comes down to one sentence: “I liked the camp, but I didn’t like the campers.” And as I continued to reach down into my soul, I realized I never liked the campers.

I never liked the bunch of judgmental, self-righteous, legion of people who stand in the crowd and hymn and haw over the emperor’s new clothes. I never like the English teachers of old who would try and teach me to imitate instead of invent, and then lambaste me for the initiative, and almost prevent me from entering college because of it. I started talking about it early on in my first podcast when someone asked me at the conference what I did for a living and out of desperation for an answer anyone would understand I told them I worked in construction. What I didn’t tell them was that I owned a family business that has been in operation for 30 years. What I didn’t tell them was that I left prosperous potential in Hollywood as a writer to help my parents after my dad got cancer. What I didn’t tell them was that I was just as educated and just as learned as they were. What I didn’t tell them was that I held at least three degrees and have continued on with my education every year since I graduated from college, taking everything from engineering, to languages, to writing, to computers, to even a couple levels of calculus that I didn’t have the courage to risk my GPA on in college. Until my accident (which affected my vision) I read at least two novels a week, and countless short stories, as well as listen to books on tape about history and science I never have the energy to read, and even stayed current on events that are important in the world and in my life. I read newspapers, magazines, and comic books. I watch shows like Battlestar Galactia and ponder the meanings behind monotheism verses polytheism as well as get excited when ships get blown up. I work out six days a week, and try and learn something new every year. What I didn’t tell them was that I enjoyed conversation for it’s own sake, and not to convince anyone of anything, and what I didn’t tell them was that was that I have always considered other people more important than myself, and have done many things in my life that has proven that. What I didn’t tell them was I did all this with a severe learning disability that wasn’t diagnosed effectively until my sophomore year of college. What they told ME was that “it must be nice not to have to think all day … I would kill for such a life.” The arrogance was overwhelming and it stung, not because I was insulted, but because I thought writers were open-minded, and giving … what I discovered as the week ran its course, that writers were mean, and vindictive, and not helpful at all unless it was a guarantee their help would benefit them.

It was at that point when I knew what I was dealing with, but it didn’t hit me. When it really hit me on the mark was when I was at this discussion with a group of agents, and although they gave a ton of helpful advice on how to publish a book if you knew either them or something they knew and owed a favor to, they gave no helpful advice on how to meet them or get your material read, or anything useful at all. They came across as arrogant and rude. They made fun of people who didn’t know the correct procedure on how to address a letter to them, and then noted over and over again how every agent’s requirements were different. They gloated on how many submissions they threw in the wastepaper basket, and they hardly ever read anything anyone sent them. We were told over and over again not to approach any agent or publisher for anything, and although I followed the restrictions, I was disappointed that I couldn’t ever ask these people anything. I did mange to work up the courage at this particular discussion and ask about my short stories, and how I would get them seen and heard … dare I say published, and they laughed … they, all five, laughed, and said they couldn’t be bothered with short stories, because it didn’t make them any money …

What did I expect? I expected a workshop where the environment was nurturing, because in the real world the situation was harsh and hostile. This I was already aware of. I expected them to say that they didn’t really work with short story authors, but they do know things about getting published, and that they can talk to me after the discussion? After all I was the only one asking the question … I would have even bought them a drink or something. I didn’t want a publishing deal, or anything from this conference, but I did want common courtesy. I did want an environment where everyone wasn’t cutting my throat. I didn’t want to be laughed at or looked down upon, or thought when I asked a question to anyone that they were greatly and overly put upon to answer it. I think this was the turning point for me in the game. This was the knife that was stabbed in my chest, to which every moment after it I would only experience bleeding.

The workshops weren’t much better. I was placed in a tiny hot room with ten other writers who spent most of their evenings partying and drinking. They had figured it out, actually … where I had been going home and desperately tried to make sense of some of the most complicated 20 pages I had ever had the discomfort to read (at times, some of the stories were good, it just doesn’t serve my point to illustrate them at this time), they were out making friends, drinking and carrying on. While I was tape-recording people’s submissions trying to figure out what they were writing about, they were glancing at my story as they were drinking their coffee that morning, and jotting down notes that didn’t make sense to me. The actual mediator didn’t even read my story until he was sitting in the classroom, and made notes that were offensive and overly mean. The wound was opened and the blood rushed out even more.

Assholes were offended by the use of the word gay, or the fact that I generalized too much, that my characters were two dimensional, instead of noting that I had done a brilliant job of MAKING my characters two dimensional, and without depth at all … they had no clue how much time and effort that took to do, because they never considered it a decision. They considered it a flaw, and the moment one person noted it as a flaw the next nine followed suit, and I then the emperor truly had no clothes. Never once did my blonde locks convey any kind of confidence in my abilities to write. Never once did my story which was readable and funny tender anything but a veil of hostility as I sat and cried silent tears as it was tore apart and “critiqued.” Never once was I given anything but idiotic opinions and rants on how they would have written the story … my story.

You see I get this in the real world all the time. I get the fat high school loser who couldn’t write a decent story to save her life reading my material all the time and if the story doesn’t challenge them, or use sentences and words that they have to look up the ancient Latin meaning of, they don’t think the story is good. The literary world does not consider readability an asset. The stories must be hard to read, hard to understand, and make some sort of politically correct or incorrect statement at the end that only they get. Stories must be a riddle that they feel clever for solving. It was strange to me that when I told people the book I was reading currently was Angels and Demons by Dan Brown a snicker filled the room.

So why is my writing ambitions dead? Well they’re dead because according to writers, other writers, I’m not a writer, I’m a joke. I’m the guy they laugh at because I mention MTV in my stories, or make a reference to the M*A*S*H, because TV is beneath them. I’m a joke because I see through them. I see through their faux angst. I understand that everyone has a painful story they’re life is based on, and I see that good stories are not about people who succumb to their adversities, good stories are about people who overcome them. I don’t think it’s interesting that you were raised in Berlin by your gay father and his German lover, and then moved to New Jersey when you were ten, and then spend your life existing as a pseudo intellect gaining intermittent joy by undermining other people’s sweat and labor. I don’t think it’s interesting that you were battered as a young woman, because you picked the wrong guy to marry … I think we place far too much importance on those in our society with “a story” rather than focusing on what writing is supposed to be, and that’s entertaining. As the market share for books dwindle it seems obvious to me that something needs to be done, but it won’t. I was actually told in a workshop by an editor that stories about your teenage life in the mall was just not readable or sellable, and the whole time I was thinking “Fast Times at Ridgemount High,” or even “Catcher in the Rye,’ which was little more than a teenager’s experiences in a 1950’s mall-ish environment.

And now I make a TV reference, there was an episode of the Simpson’s where the members of MENSA took over the town of Springfield and literally fucked the entire place up … That’s the world of literature right now. Get used to it folks, you’re dying, and you’re dying because you’re mean and arrogant, and Squaw Valley Writer’s Workshop proved that to me. Perhaps someday I’ll pick up a mantel and write again, but not tomorrow (the day after tomorrow perhaps, but not tomorrow.)

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